Ben Olsen once again trying to rescue D.C. United

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Mike Wise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 25, 2010; 12:10 AM

While recently taking a bullet for his employer, Ben Olsen called his former coach and sought advice. Before hanging up with Tom Soehn, though, he also wanted to make amends.

"Yep, I called him after I got the job and I said, 'Yeah, I also wanted to apologize - for all the [crap] I put you through,' " Olsen told Soehn. "Because that's the other side you get on this. You'll see all the things you have to juggle and . . . "

Since most of you are culturally deprived because you continue to read nothing that's not about Strasworth or Haynesburg, we should explain:

Ben Olsen, one of the most popular soccer players here ever and way cooler than almost every sports person in town except maybe Chris Cooley, finished playing professional soccer for D.C. United, like, last week. (Okay, about nine months ago.)

His post-playing career was supposed to include a gradual transition to coaching, where he would unobtrusively serve as an apprentice to his former teammate, Curt Onalfo, who took over for Soehn as United's coach in November. It would also include sippy cups and cleaning up various sections of The Washington Post, which his almost-2-year-old daughter Ruby just tossed violently off the couch and onto the floor of his District rowhouse because her father has yet to order "Yo Gabba Gabba!" from On Demand and his wife, Megan, has yet to return from teaching dance at a middle school to give Daddy a break.

Which is fine and enjoyable and all - except Ben Olsen isn't an assistant coach anymore. He's . . . the guy.

If you're just joining D.C. United for this dreadful season, the team did something it never does: management panicked in the middle of the season, dumping Onalfo and promoting Olsen.

He actually knew of the firing before his former teammate. "Your first instincts are disloyalty," he said. "You feel terrible for Curt, because ultimately you're part of the reason he got fired. I'm on staff. And we didn't do well. I'm responsible for that too.

"I felt very disloyal at first."

After speaking with Megan, he decided to accept the job. For the first time in 15 seasons, the club fired a coach during the season and asked Olsen if he could do the interim thing until his employers could figure out their next move.

"From what I understand, they will look for a coach," he said. Asked if he is okay with that arrangement, Olsen added: "I'm not sure. I don't how I'll feel after a couple months of going through this process. I might find that I'm not ready. I might feel like I am ready. But that's not what this is about now."

Indeed, now a 33-year-old guy just starting to cope with the toughest transition of all - no, not changing Ruby's diapers; life after being a pro athlete - is suddenly deciding playing time for 36-year-old Jaime Moreno, his legendary former teammate and friend. And playing time for 37-year-old Juan Manuel Pea and 33-year-old Carey Talley.


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